Blenheim Riverside Railway  

New Zealand

Award Winning Railway   


News and Events

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Loco Update

Posted by Darrin Wilkinson on January 27, 2016 at 9:15 PM

Hi All

We have started the year with a bang just before Xmas we received the sides of the tender and today we fitted them, the water tank has been hyd/tested and ready for piping to the loco. The loco has had most of it's copper pipe work fitted  and the new diesel burner installed and awaiting pipe work from the diesel tank at the back of the loco.

Gary C.

News around our loco depot

Posted by Darrin Wilkinson on October 17, 2015 at 6:40 AM

Date - 17 November 2015.

This week has seen a massive push to the resortation of our loco.  The cab has now been fully built as a mock up and will soon be going to an engineering company in Bleneheim to fabrication. 

Photo above - Mock up nearing completion.The plywood cab mock-up. This very neat job has had a big input from Brian Edgar, with Gary and John working on the design. Once they are happy with it, it will be transported to Cuddon Engineering. They will make a steel duplicate for DONALD.

Above  - Mock-up cab interior. Note the boiler sight glasses that John was able to rebuild.

Above - A view of the loco tender frame. This a creative work of art from Gary, supported by his helpers who cut and grind the many components.

Above - This shows the auxiliary steam engine at left coupled to the reconditioned air compressor. Some more smart engineering by John. This will run off steam from the boiler, to run the air brake system for the loco, tender and carriages.

Below - The rebuilt twist trolley nears completion. This project is being built by Ralph, with help from Gavin and Gary. Once painted, it will be used by the track inspectors.

History of Donald.

Posted by Darrin Wilkinson on October 16, 2015 at 5:45 AM

Several people have contacted the Society seeking information about our little 2ft tank steam locomotive.  Please read below the information from the Marlborough Museum's Website

"Donald"  The little loco's history.

Steam locomotive, built in Glasgow, Scotland c.1900

It left Glasgow, Scotland on 28 June 1901 and arrived at Wellington on the ship Machrianish, before being shipped onto Nelson and Puponga [source: Nelson Evening Mail, 19 July 1901 and 25 October 1901, via Papers Past website].

The locomotive is an 0-4-0 tank engine and it served Puponga Coal and Gold Mining Company Limited, near Farewell Spit, Tasman District, until 1930.

In 1990 the Collingwood Museum Society lent the 'bones' of Donald to the Blenheim Riverside Railway Society [BRRS] for eventual restoration.

From 1992 to 2004 fundraising, re-building and re-assembly took place.

Currently there is a huge restoration project underway as can been seen by our updates. BRRS Now has more skilled labour and sought further funding.

Donald is being restored as a 0-4-2 by adding a trailing axle to reduce track wear.

There is an article on the Tasman District featuring the Puponga coal mine in New Zealand Memories magazine, November-December 1995, issue 3, pps 162-165, with two photographs showing a small locomotive. "According to J. Newport's history of Collingwood, a small locomotive was due to arrive from England mid 1901..." [page 163] and "The make and class of the quaint little English-made locomotive is one of the great mysteries among locomotive freaks.

It is of unknown pedigree and is one of the few locomotives to operate in New Zealand that has foiled all research attempts. However, the experts can tell us that it was affectionally known as "Donald". [page 164].

Mock cab fitted to Donald.

Posted by Darrin Wilkinson on October 12, 2015 at 8:00 PM

As our steam team works steadily towards the full restoration of Donald - one part  that was  missing which is a huge part of the locomotive - The Cab. From historic photos, the restoration crew have designed and constructed a wooden plywood mock-up of the cab to play around with and make the locomotive as authentic as we can.  The locomotive cab will be steel and look the true part as she did all those years ago. Below and above  are photo of progress to date 12th October 2015.

Please note all the steam cab fittings are now in place and looking the part.

The crew are working on this project nearly 7 days a week. Huge progress has been undertaken since the FRONZ Conference.

No date has been officially set yet for the recommission of Donald – But the restoration team have a date in mind and are working rapidly towards that date.

Soon, in the not too distant future, the people of Blenheim and the world will hear the little loco working down the Riverside Railway. 

Donald update - Steam team in Full Steam

Posted by Darrin Wilkinson on September 24, 2015 at 2:35 AM

Here is a brief update from John Orchard - President

Another day of great progress in the workshop. Gary, Doug, Gavin, Graham and Ralph were all building components for the Tender. It is hoped if we continue at the pace we are achieving  to turn the tender onto its wheels on Saturday morning.

This tender will be a work of art.

It will include, air brakes, spring suspension, water tank, fuel tank, 230 Volt generator, 24 volt alarm system, tool box, a head light, and a VIP seat.

TEAM Steam

Posted by Darrin Wilkinson on September 23, 2015 at 9:25 PM

With the successful low pressure test being signed off and smiles all around, the steam team are in full swing assembling and restoring/manufacturing components for our little loco “Donald"


We are lucky to have the dedication of a number of members who, some are putting in 6 days a week into the restoration. One thing the public need to remember and we have this in all railway groups is that our valuable members are mostly retired and in their late 60's and older.


The photo below is a photo of 2 such members who are very valuable to our society along with everyone else who has a skill or expertise in some field.

YES WE HAVE STEAM!! Gary Coburn (L) and John Stichbury show their delight as the boiler produces steam to blow the whistle.


"Donald" Update

Posted by Darrin Wilkinson on August 23, 2015 at 3:35 AM


There has been a lot of interest from various people regarding "Donald" We thank you for your ongoing interest and support.

As work advances on our historical locomotive “Donald" we will continue to inform you on the updates as they come to hand.

Saturday 22nd August 2015 saw "Donald" outside in the Marlborough sunshine. The restoration team wanted to check the Pony truck for gauge and this was achieved with success. The team are working on the boiler and overhauling and manufacturing various components. We are happy to report that this project are slowly coming together. We have not set a completion date officially but we are slowly restoring what will be New Zealand’s only 2 foot gauge steam locomotive from the last century.

Photos below are of "Donald" outside our shed. Photos by Gavin Wilkinson.


Steam Locomotive "Donald"

Posted by Darrin Wilkinson on August 9, 2015 at 2:40 AM

We are happy to announce that progress is being made on our Steam Locomotive.  

The Steam Team are making rapid progress on the steam loco project. Key members are John Stitchbury, Arthur Beaman, Gary Coburn, and Scott McIntyre.

Photo above  shows the boiler which has spent a few weeks in Nelson where it was inspected, and tested up to 300psi pressure. It got a very good report. Transport to and from Nelson was courtesy of the Renwick Lions Club.

Photo above shows the loco frame over the pit. Many detailed jobs are being done here by our very skilled team.

Photos below


FRONZ Charters

Posted by Darrin Wilkinson on June 25, 2015 at 5:05 AM

During the FRONZ confrence we ran a couple of shuttle trains to take delegates on our track 

Two major awards from FRONZ 2015

Posted by Darrin Wilkinson on June 20, 2015 at 10:25 AM

Blenheim Riverside Railway were hosts of the 2015 Federation of Rail Organisations of New Zealand (FRONZ) conference, over this Queen's Birthday weekend.

The Blenheim Riverside Railway Society has been given the thumbs up by KiwiRail for their work extending the railway line to Omaka.

 The society was presented with the KiwiRail infrastructure award from the national rail operator at the Federation of Rail Organisations of New Zealand national conference, held in Blenheim over the weekend.

 Society president John Orchard said it was awarded to them for building the 900 metre branch line from their base at Brayshaw Park to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre.

 It was also the third time they had won the award, which had only been handed out on nine separate occasions, he said.

 "We are really pleased to have won it again. We won it in 2006 for the reinforced concrete sleepers we are replacing our wooden sleepers with, and we also won it in 2011 for the scaled down replica of the Picton station at Brayshaw Park."

 The award came with $2000 in prize money, which would be used to buy new equipment for the society, Orchard said.

 The new branch line was officially opened in March and marked the first South Island branch line to open this century.One of the society's youngest members Scott McIntyre was also recognised at the conference for his efforts, taking the Aon young achiever of the year award.

 The accolade recognised railway organisation members under the age of 25 and came with $1000 in prize money.

 "Scott's been a member since he was 8-years-old. He would do simple jobs at first but as he's grown up he has become an important part of the society. He has developed a reputation for having a very sharp eye at spotting things that need work," Orchard said.

 The conference was based at the Clubs of Marlborough, in Blenheim, and was the first time in more than a decade that it had been held in Marlborough. It was hosted in Picton about 12 years ago, he said.

 Feedback from delegates was extremely positive. "They said it was the best conference to date under the current organisation team. People were very complimentary of the Clubs of Marlborough as a venue, the accommodation in town and the friendliness of the town in general," Orchard said.

 As part of the conference, about 75 delegates visited Brayshaw Park, the aviation heritage centre, the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum in Picton and rode the riverside railway.

 "They were extremely impressed with what Marlborough had to offer them."

Source - Marlborough Express.  - Photo credits - Marlborough Express and FRONZ